Today, Apple announced a new tier of Apple Music that would offer both lossless and Hi-Fi listening experiences. Over at 9to5Mac, we took a closer look at what would be required to hear the difference with Apple Music’s Hi-Fi audio tier, and now we’re going to take a deeper dive into what gear we recommend if this is a whole new world to you. Sadly, you won’t be able to enjoy the Hi-Fi category of music wirelessly, or even wired on any of Apple’s in-house headphones, so all of the options below are wired and require you to plug a cable in. One benefit? Your entire audio setup could cost less than a single pair of AirPods Max, which don’t even support Hi-Fi listening, so that’s something to look forward to.
Micca OriGen G2 delivers 24-bit, 192kHz audio in a compact and budget-friendly build
We’ll start off on the DAC side of things. For those after a budget-friendly DAC with plenty of options, the Micca OriGen G2 is a great choice. With support for up to 24-bit 192kHz audio, this has the ability to deliver Apple’s highest-tier of audio in all its native glory.
Along the front of this DAC, there’s both 1/8-inch and 1/4-inch headphone hookups, allowing you to plug in a variety of cans with ease. There’s also a toggle for headphone or line out, as well as a -10dB switch if you need to cut out a bit of power. On the top, there’s a knob to control your volume and around back you’ll find the USB port, speaker out, and S/PDIF digital out.
Given that this DAC hooks into your computer over USB and is bus-powered, no external power adapter is required for it to function. However, should you want to use it to drive higher-powered speakers, you’ll need a separate plug to deliver additional voltage.
Buy the Micca OriGen G2 USB Dac for $109.99 at Amazon
Audioengine D1 24-bit, 192kHz DAC offers a plethora of versatility
While the Micca OriGen G2 is great for compact builds, the Audioengine D1 is another great option to consider. Along the front, there’s a power indicator, 1/8-inch headphone output, and volume control. On the top of the D1, there’s nothing, which can give it a very sleek look on your desk.
The real difference between the OriGen G2 and D1 is found on the back. Sure, they share a USB input and S/PDIF output, but the big thing is that the D2 has stereo RCA outputs. This allows the DAC to work in two different ways, through headphones and speakers connected in a compact, minimal form factor. It still has the same 24-bit 192kHz output as the G2 above, but the slightly larger footprint allows it to have more output options which could let it fit into your setup better.
Buy the Audioengine D1 DAC for $169 shipped at Amazon
Other DACs to consider
- iFi Zen DAC: $130
- 24-bit, 284kHz
- Schiit Modi 3+ D/A Converter: $119
- 24-bit, 192kHz
- xDuoo TA-10R Tube DAC: $270
- 24-bit, 384kHz
Philips SHP9600 wired over-ear open-back headphones deliver high-quality audio on a budget
You’ll find that the SHP9600 from Philips feature 50mm neodymium drivers and offer an open-back design. The open-back design is what makes these headphones stand out from the rest, as it offers a comfortable listening experience for hours on end. The clamping force is fantastic, as it’s light enough not to cause a headache but tight enough to stay put. Plus, my ears never sweat even after hours of listening.
You’ll find a 32 Ohm impedance here with 200mW maximum power input, 101dB sensitivity, and the ability to respond to frequencies ranging from 12 to 35,000kHz. If you’re after a budget-focused pair of headphones to take advantage of Apple Music Hi-Fi Lossless streaming, the Philips SHP9600 are a great choice.
Buy Philips SHP9600 Open-back Headphones for $99.99 at Amazon
beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO 250Ohm headphones take things up a notch
If you’re after something a bit higher-end, we recommend you check out beyerdynamic’s DT 990 PROs. These offer a similar open-back construction, though the overall build is slightly different from Philips’ option above.
While the SHP9600 max out at 32 Ohm, beyerdynamic’s DT 990 PROs require a massive 250 Ohm to function. This means that you’ll really need a DAC/amp like listed above to drive the headphones properly, making this a more well-suited pairing with Apple’s Hi-Fi Lossless streaming service.
Overall, you can’t go wrong with either pair of headphones here, and it’s fairly subjective which pair of cans you pick. Some prefer the soundstage of the SHP9600’s, while others say that beyerdynamic’s DT 990 PROs are far superior when it comes to clarity.
Other headphones to consider
- Philips Fidelio X3: $281
- Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 6XX: $220
- Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee: $170
- Drop + Sennheiser HD 8XX: $1,100
While AirPods Max sound fantastic, and there’s no denying that, if you want to take full advantage of Apple Music’s upcoming Hi-Fi Lossless option, then you’re going to need a full-on audio setup. As you can see above, it can be budget-friendly at $210 for both headphones and a DAC, or $1,100 for just a pair of cans, depending on how deep into the audiophile world you want to head.
Our recommendation is the SHP9600 with OriGen G2 to get started, and see where it goes from there. That will already be a huge step up from the built-in 24-bit 48kHz DAC that Apple’s existing audio products offer, and might be all you need in a headphone setup.
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